Sweet and silly, Be Kind Rewind, Michel Gondry’s fourth film (fifth if you count his 2005 documentary, Block Party) recounts the adventures of Mike (Mos Def) and his pal Jerry (Jack Black) as they recreate films from memory. When Mr. Fletcher, owner of the Be Kind Rewind video store, goes away for a week to a Fats Waller convention, he leaves Mike in charge of the store. Unfortunately, after a bizarre accident, Jerry becomes magnetized and consequently demagnetizes the store’s entire collection of VHS tapes (no DVDs here, folks). When number-one customer Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) asks for Ghostbusters, the pair are forced to create their own version from memory (along with help from local laundress Alma (Melonie Diaz)). Miss Falewicz’s nephew and his friends see the bizarre results and must have more, hence the birth of “sweding“–the process of remaking film favorites. The neighborhood citizens go crazy for the sweded films, clamoring for their own favorites to be made. By the end of the film, the entire neighborhood has moved beyond copying other people’s movies. Instead, they make their own film, the (kinda invented) biography of Fats Waller.
Be Kind Rewind is full of goofy fun laughs, and despite its lighthearted tone it never half-asses–or overplays–handling its dominant themes of creativity and community. Jack Black never overdoes it as Jerry, the zany paranoiac, and Mos Def is fantastic as the slightly anxious, slightly slow Mike (his version of Chris Tucker during the sweding of Rush Hour 2 is worth the price of admission alone). Danny Glover plays Mr. Fletcher poignantly, and the character comes to serve as a kind of elegiac totem for the death of highly-specialized local video shops with knowledgeable, cinephile-employees. Be Kind Rewind is a funny, giving film, and never self-indulgent; it moves the viewer without a trace of schmalz. Plus, it never drags. Highly recommended.
Be Kind Rewind is out on DVD today.